Sunday, September 9, 2007

Home of the Future?

(Brendan)
The Star Tribune, the newspaper of the city of Minneapolis, recently commissioned a panel of architects, scientists, and designers to predict residential life in a suburb of Minneapolis in the year 2037. Here's a link to the full article and interactive graphics. Their predictions are kind of interesting to consider. Here's a model of the residential development, as conceived by the panel (click to enlarge).

As you can see (and read) the vast majority of the features of the development that are discussed have to do with environmental conservation. Throughout the interactive graphics there's lots of speculation about extra pollution, additional storms and unpredictable weather, carbon trading markets and "carbon points," and on. In order to supply energy in a "greener" manner, these homes all have solar power, tap from a shared geothermal energy source, share hybrid or electric vehicles collectively (no one has a garage or owns their own car), and collect rain water in shared cisterns.

Here's the front and back of a theorized future home in the development...
I have to say, the house is pretty ugly. Hopefully houses don't look like this in 2037, with all sorts of appendages and equipment hanging off the home with virtually no thought to integrating them with the design of the home. I would think even a mediocre architect could make this home more aesthetically appealing. At the very least, that wind turbine sticking up from the top of the roof is hideous.

One of the predictions of the panel is that there won't be any basements (they don't say why), but that a "safe room" in the middle of the home would provide protection in case of a storm. And again, no garages (which I find impossible to believe, given the American fixation with garages), and no personally owned cars since cars would be shared in developments (which I think might be the case for certain people, but probably not the majority). If you want to see the other predictions, go to the link and put your pointer over each of the red dots.

In regard to all of the environmental conservation predictions, I think a lot of them are pretty reasonable and may be accurate. For instance, geothermal heating for homes is already a reality and is being implemented in some new homes, though in my own research it is cost prohibitive at this point (roughly 2 to 3 times the cost of standard heating systems, taking roughly 20 years to recoup your initial investment). Costs will likely come down in the future, making it a more viable option. I don't think all the solar panels will happen; solar has been a viable technology for many years and just doesn't get adopted. People don't understand it, and have biases against it at this point that I think would be very difficult to overcome. Carbon points and carbon trading markets probably will happen (they already exist in Europe), but I think it will be limited to corporations (particularly energy companies) and will not be enforced to individuals.

Where I think things got a little goofy in this endeavor was when the panel went beyond the home designs and tried to predict people of the future. Here's the couple that own the home above...
Emily, 37, is preparing dinner when she receives a video call from her husband, Yaochuan, 29, in Shanghai, China, where he resides. Emily is a recently married Internet bride. Yaochuan sought a wife of child-bearing age in the United States because of the lack of women in China. Emily explains that they are running low on carbon points. The points are carried on the carbon debit card issued to each household. In addition to money, points are subtracted when family members buy high-carbon-emitting goods and services, such as gasoline or airline tickets. The couple don’t have enough for Yaochuan’s flight to Minneapolis unless he’s able to purchase more from a frugal family selling points on the carbon exchange. Yaochuan says he’ll do that. He’ll see her next week. He plans to stay a month, so they can “work” on a pregnancy.
Right.

Moving on, here's the shocker (from the perspective of this blog). Keep in mind, the Star Tribune, being a relatively left-leaning paper, isn't exactly friendly to homeschooling and would automatically be skeptical of non-institutionalized education. So here's the panel's prediction of the 12 year-old son living in the home above (trendily named "Levitt," of course)...
Levitt, 12, spent the day with his virtual teacher, or avatar, touring Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Afterward, he played skating splatball outdoors with neighborhood friends. Now he’s in his bedroom for a soccer game. His team of North and South American Web friends use devices that sense and display motions in real time, providing the experience and exercise of a real game. School comes to Levitt. The state overhauled education seven years ago to keep pace with students from Asia and India, and to eliminate the monetary and carbon costs of student transportation and school-building operation. Leading the nation, the state determined that it’s every child’s right to have individualized education to nurture his or her strongest assets. State-regulated firms supply the avatars that families choose to guide their children’s education.
Okay, all homeschoolers out there, let's all collectively say "duh!" So this panel is telling me that after all the grief that homeschoolers have been given over the years, after all the fighting that early homeschoolers had to do in the 70's and 80's to secure the rights that all homeschooling families now enjoy today, now we realize that each child would do best with "individualized education"! Maybe society will wake up a little earlier than 2037. That said, you can bet government-sanctioned avatars will be banished from the Catholic homeschooling home.

7 comments:

Evan Koop said...

Re: geothermal energy

A parish priest I know is currently in the process of installing a geothermal heating/cooling system into his parish church. Apparently the thing, once installed, will provide heating in the winter and cooling in the summer at no further cost. He estimates they will recoup their costs in less than 10 years, but perhaps that is because of the size of the space.

Brendan Koop said...

Geothermal is definitely cost prohibitive residentially, at least for us. I've been following this guy's blog for a while, and this was his entry when he found out about the cost of geothermal (which he wanted to incorporate):

Geothermal entry at "From the Ground Up"

I think it would be cool, but it's probably a decade or so before widespread residential use.

John Curran said...

I don't think the house is that ugly, perhaps the rendering does not do it justice. At very least, I am thrilled to see that the front facade material is continued around the corners! Whatever's going on with that entry disturbs me though. And a garage would be useful for much more than parking the car...

Kat said...

I remember either here or on AP you were talking about looking for a monstrance for your chapel???

Try leaflete Missal www.leafletonline.com Item # 16733

it is a chapel monstrance, for 197.00

Brendan Koop said...

Thanks, that's a great lead! Here's the web page...

Chapel Monstrance

It does say "Temporarily Out of Stock." They need to improve inventory management to keep up with the chapel market.

Allison Koop said...

Regardless of the look of the house, it's encouraging to see the extent to which environmental conservation is used. I realize a wind turbine may not be aesthetically pleasing, but if I have to chose between a wind turbine or permanently destroying the Earth's climate, I think I'll go for the wind turbine. The attitude that turbines, etc. are not pleasing to the eye is exactly what prevents the country from taking big steps forward in protecting the earth. Sure, the turbine doesn't look great; but, wouldn't you like your kids to be able to see a white Christmas? Or be able to play outside in the summer without fear from harsh radiation? The benefits of beautiful design need to be weighed next to the benefits of keeping the home God gave us beautiful.

LeeAnn said...

I agree about the garage. There will always be a need for some kind of outbuilding so long as people continue to have noisy/messy hobbies even if they have no cars. Where are you going to do your bike repairs? In the kitchen? Where is your child going to do is virtual interactive football team practice or whatever? In the living room? And making biodiesel? Recycling trash? Storing other seasonal reusable goods when not needed (aka Christmas decorations)? These are all best done in a garage or some other kind of outbuilding.

Personally, my dream home of the future would be more like a Swedish farmstead model. Small separate buildings for specific uses surrounded by open space. One building for sleeping, another for cooking, another for study & prayer, etc.